Thursday, August 15, 2013

In the News

Traveling trainer looks at animals as 'my livelihood'
Circus life has man on road most of year

By Amanda Whitesell
Daily Press & Argus
Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ryan Holder’s tigers can jump over each other, walk on their hind legs and eat right out of his hand.

But what is the tiger trainer’s favorite aspect of working with the animals at Kelly Miller Circus, which on Tuesday visited Putnam Township?

“Letting tigers be tigers,” he said.

The 25-year-old travels nine months out of the year with the circus, performing two shows per day, seven days per week.

“We travel for maybe an hour in the morning, and they’re all set up and sitting on the grass by 8 in the morning,” he said, motioning toward the four tigers, lazily lounging in a cage stationed outside his pickup truck and trailer. “The rest of the day is theirs until showtime.”

Holder grew up the son of an elephant trainer, and began shoveling their barns at age 4.

“I rode my first bull elephant when I was 10 days old,” he said. “It’s in my blood.”

The St. Louis native said he’s always wanted to work with wild animals, and each of his tigers has a unique personality, ranging from “incredibly smart” to “lazy.”

Each tiger has a public name and a given name, to prevent names from losing their significance for training purposes, he said. The given name of his youngest tiger, Zera, is dedicated to his grandmother.

Holder doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the day a “light bulb” went off in the tiger’s head regarding training was the same day his grandmother came out of the hospital after having a stroke.

The trainer said he’s offended by organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which he said “spews propaganda.” The circus — including interactions between trainers and animals — is regularly inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which shows up unannounced, he said.
Taking care

“These animals are my livelihood,” he said. “It wouldn’t benefit me at all to not take care of them.”

For more information about Holder’s tiger act, visit

Exotic animals attract the attention of youth at the Kelly Miller Circus in Putnam Township.

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